SAN DIEGO -- As Max Fried continues to live up to the great expectations that surrounded him when the Padres drafted him in 2012, he is giving the Braves exactly what is expected from a frontline starter in the heart of a pennant race.
Fried dazzled yet again as he helped the Braves bounce back from a couple tough losses to claim a 4-0 win over the Padres on Friday night at Petco Park. The left-hander totaled 98 pitches while throwing a three-hit shutout and becoming the fourth Atlanta pitcher to throw multiple “Madduxes” -- a nine-inning shutout that requires less than 100 pitches -- in a season.
“He was awesome,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “That was like super ace worthy, especially at this time of the year. You need a big game like that against a team that’s really talented and chasing the playoffs, as well. To do something like that is special.”
Swanson’s two-run homer in the second inning provided some early cushion for Fried and helped the Braves distance themselves from the frustration felt when they began Friday by suffering a 6-5 loss with the resumption of a seven-inning game that had been suspended in Atlanta on July 21.
The loss, combined with Philadelphia’s win over the Pirates, briefly brought the second-place Phillies within one game of the National League East lead. But the Braves pushed their lead to 1 1/2 games courtesy of Fried, who had also quickly changed the mood when he halted a four-game losing streak by throwing seven scoreless innings on Sunday in San Francisco.
“This was a huge game after a tough loss,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He turned it right around.”
Looking ahead, it appears Fried’s final regular-season start will come during the key series next week against the Phillies in Atlanta. That is good news for the Braves, who have seen the left-hander produce a 1.78 ERA in 13 starts since the All-Star break to match Max Scherzer for the NL’s best mark within this span.
“I’m just trying to be myself,” Fried said. “I’m not trying to do too much or overthink roles or what I want to be. I just want to go out there and do whatever I can to help the team.”
Given an early lead courtesy of Austin Riley’s first-inning RBI single and Swanson’s first homer since Sept. 1, Fried pitched around singles in each of the first two innings and then, after allowing Fernando Tatis Jr.’s leadoff double in the fourth, retired the final 18 batters he faced.
Fried certainly benefited from some strong defense. But he was in command as he aggressively attacked the strike zone while notching four strikeouts with no walks. Snitker thought this was more impressive than the four-hit shutout the lefty threw in Baltimore on Aug. 20. That 90-pitch effort was also a Maddux.
The last Braves pitcher to throw two Madduxes in a season was Shelby Miller in 2015.
“He’s out there with a lot of confidence, which is great,” Snitker said. “I’d be confident, too, if I had his stuff. That was fun to watch. It was a big, big win for us.”
Adding to the significance of this outing was the fact Fried constructed this masterpiece in front of the many friends and family members who still live in his native Southern California. He also did this against the Padres, who took him with the seventh overall pick in 2012 and then used him to acquire outfielder Justin Upton from the Braves before the 2014 season.
At 27 years old, Fried has distanced himself from some injury woes and become one of the game’s best. Along the way, he has allowed one run over 16 innings total in two career starts against the Padres.
“He’s really evolved into a phenomenal pitcher,” Swanson said. “He was awesome tonight.”